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Dutch Officials Probe Uzbek Telecom Bribery

Sunday 26 April 2015

(DutchNews.nl) – Dutch justice ministry officials suspect two international telecom companies based in the Netherlands of bribing the daughter of the president of Uzbekistan, the NRC reports on Friday. Swedish Finnish firm TeliaSonera and Russian group VimpelCom are said to have paid $220 mln via a letterbox company owned by Gulnara Karimova in return for GSM frequencies and licences in Uzbekistan, the paper says.

The information comes from a request for legal help made by Dutch public prosecutors to Sweden last year. The document, which is in the hands of the paper, shows the potential bribe was made via a “trust account operated by notary firm Houthoff”. ING and Orangefield Trust were also involved in the transaction, the paper says.

Switzerland and Sweden began a criminal investigation into bribery claims three years ago.

Last March TeliaSonera declared U.S. authorities were investigating its purchase of a 3G license in Uzbekistan in 2007, a deal that has forced the firm to replace top management and most of its board. Swedish prosecutors had already launched a preliminary inquiry into corruption allegations related to the 2.3 bln Swedish crowns ($360.5 mln) deal, while Dutch authorities raided Telia’s and VimpelCom’s holding companies offices.

A second criminal investigation involving the two companies focuses on the earnings they are said to have generated after winning the GSM concessions. That figure is put at around €400 mln, the NRC says. The investigation, which involves 10 other countries including the US, is being coordinated via Eurojust in The Hague.

The two companies and Houthoff have declined to comment on the claims and ING says it complies with “strict procedures”. Orangefield says it is not a subject in the ongoing investigation.

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